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The Girl Who Played with Fire
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Books, films or games, I love a great thriller. However this novel is something very very special. The pace is very siimilar to Dan Brown's but the content is much more thought provoking.
Everybody is talking about The Millennium Trilogy because of the unique Salander character. In many ways she could be a cartoon but somehow Larsson makes her extraordinarily real. How on earth he brings a 4'11, gothic, violence prone, social outcast, self taught computer genius who solves 400 year old maths equations for fun to life, I will never know. There is no exaggeration putting her in the same league as Holmes and Marple. She has rightly become a cult legend.
The novel is centred around the mysterious execution of a couple who were about to publish a severely damaging expose of the Swedish Sex Trade. Salander's prints are on the murder weapon and her record of violence does her no favours. The novel exploits the original 'Men Who Hate Women'- (The original title of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) gender theme but throws you into the 100MPH tabloid media circus of a nationwide police manhunt of the female protagonist.
I assure you the finale cliff hanger is like nothing you have ever read. The reader is never quite sure whether she has or hasn't committed the terrible crimes she is accused of. (You are certainly sure that she is capable of them.)
Best novel of 2009.
The xx - CD
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The previous review has got it spot on: this is absolutely 'stunning minimalist trip-hop-pop'! Last year I was transfixed by Burial's 'Untrue' and had that set to repeat on my iPod for months on end. Since owning 'XX' I have clocked up dozens of plays in just a couple of days. The album does carry a similar haunting ambience as Burial's amazing second album (by the way, they attended the same London school as Burial, Hot Chip and Four Tet) but it is a lot more than just 'minimalist' .
The female and male vocals gel together in a way which really shouldn't work on such a record. I can't think of any modern groups with such an arrangement. The best way to describe the female vocalist style is something between Bjork, Portishead's Beth Gibbons and Zero 7's Sia Furler with a soulful R&Bish force. Stand out tracks for me are 'VCR', 'Basic Space' and former iTunes single of the week, 'Crystalised'. Having said that, the whole album plays like a film score and, played as a whole, it creates one continual soundtrack to my daily commute. I really would be surprised and disappointed if 'XX' is overlooked for nomination for next years Mercury Music prize. These young guys deserve HUGE recognition.
What is golden about this album is that the group did not feel the need to throw in a couple of tracks to change the peaceful mood or to 'mix it up'. Critics will argue that this makes the record boring and monotonous but I think that it is key to its triumph. This record is a truly refreshing change to the indie chart topping malarkey which is going on at the moment!
If you are into 90s Trip Hop groups such as Massive Attack, Portishead or Sneaker Pimps, you'll love The XX . If you are after something chilled, slow and different 'XX' is for you too.
More importantly, if you wish to support genuine young British talent, you should buy this amazing effort. It's incredible that these guys are all still only 20 years old and hopefully have a lot more to offer.
I'll skip reviewing this fantastic movie, I'll review the Blu Ray title.This is by far the best blu ray transfer to date. The picture has the darkest blacks and lightest whites I have ever seen. Some images appear to burst out of the screen. Even from the beginning 'Miramax' credits I could see that the quality was out of this world. I'll go as far as saying the movie is void of grainy dark areas. The colours are very very very vibrant and, in contrast to the black and white, look beautiful. One of the opening scenes with Marv andGoldie is absolutely magnificent. The detail on black and white close ups is astonishing. There are plenty of touches I hadn't noticed in 3 years of owning the DVD title. You have to see this transfer to believe it. As for the sound through 5.1, it is the best I have come across. The narration truly rumbles through the centre speakers and is complemented by realistic cityscape sounds on the surround. The surround through DTS- HD MA is the clearest I have heard on any movie. As an added bonus, there is a fantastic recut and extended version on the second disc and plenty of extra documentaries. For this price this is a great showcase for your system as well as one of the most original and interesting films of the last 10 years.
The Color Purple
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This is a masterpiece. From the first page, you are thrown into the terrible life and abused mind of this most fantastic female protagonist. The epistolary form (the novel is a collection of letters) is paramount to this triumph. Reading this book is an extraordinarily personal experience and is left wide open to extremely wide interpretation. Walker was strongly criticised for the negative depictions of men in this work, however, I think that there was good reason for it. I can understand why many men would be offended by this book, but, (it must be said) this is not a novel simply about being black in America in the early 20th Century. It is about a person who is black, a woman and trying to become an individual in America in the early 20th Century. It was very important for Walker to make that distinction. The book is about gaining inner peace and spiritual harmony in an age of war, racial and sexual oppression and prejudice. If Celie can do it, anyone can. This work would not be out of place in a 'Self Help' section of a book shop. It is an inspiration.
Bridge To Terabithia (2007)
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I rented this movie and I was treated with a huge surprise. When it was recommended I was warned not to judge this one by its cover. For those of you looking for an easy watching fantasy for all the family to watch on a Sunday afternoon, this isn't for you. This movie is full of dialogue and sophisticated levels of plot development and thus is not for very young children.However, after watching this film I was left very deep in thought and was extremely entertained. Annasophia Robb is a star in the making and the outstanding cast member in this feature. Very well directed and acted. 5 STARS
His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass (2 Discs)
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As far as CGI on Blu Ray goes, this move is second to none. It is rightfully considered by many as one of the 'must have' Blu Ray Disc out there. The sacred relationship between human and daemon is captured perfectly and there are some great scenery throughout Oxford and the North. However, when I first read that Phillip Pullman's Northern Lights was going to be adapted into a screenplay I was over the moon. Never have I been so spiritual and emotionally effected by a book, until His Dark Materials. The adaptation of this most spellbinding novel does not quite cut it in truth. Firstly, the central theme of religious patriarchy is almost non existent. The main problem is that the film is aimed at a much younger audience compared to the readers of the novel. That being said, if you have not read the book, this is an excellent fantasy tale of coming of age.
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My greatest concern was that Mirror's Edge would be a big let down and end up being a semi-controllable platformer, like Assassin's... boy was I wrong. Never have I played a game where I felt so in control of the character's movements. You will find yourself bending your own knees when going into a big jump! Visually this game is stunning. The First Person experience has been taking to the next generation. Judging by the demo (which I can't put down) this game looks like it will be fun but challenging. Yeah, the combat doesn't seem to be the best but this game isn't about fighting your way through, it's about running. The chases are pure adrenaline and the soundtrack and the 5.1 compliment that massively. If you haven't yet, download the demo and I can guarantee come 14/11/08 you will be forking out a worthy £39.99. This is a game like no other.
Batman: The Dark Knight (2 Discs)
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To start on a negative note, this film is probably not the greatest plot ever written. Despite this, it is up there as far as individual performances go. Heath Ledger is an absolute revelation and it is a small consolation that his short career will be remembered by what I think is the most convincing psychotic and engaging roles ever played. Nicholson was fantastic, but i am sure he will be the first to admit that Ledger's portrayal is so much more thrilling. I can't remember a film where I and so many of the people I know went to watch for a second time. To those who read the reviews which offered 1 star, please pay attention to the majority. I for one hate the bandwagon supporters of average films but I think that Dark Knight will be one of THE movies of this decade.
Samsung Series 4 32 inch LE32A436 HD Ready Freeview Widescreen LCD TV
Yes it does have built in freeview and the picture can be excellent. It can be set up pretty easily with detailed instructions on screen.I have mine hooked up to my 360 via HDMI and the picture is magnificent. From the remote you have one button control of Entertainment Modes, so you can switch from 'Game' to 'Cinema' to 'Sport' in less than seconds. This isn't just a gimmick, the picture changes dramatically under each setting.Ordinary DVDs look incredibly sharp when upscaled and the sound quality is crisp, even at higher volumes. Having said that, a surround sound system would complete this purchase. If you are after an all round HDTV for gaming, television and watching movies, you cannot go wrong here. In my opinion, there is not much point in getting a 1080p on a 32" or smaller, the difference just doesn't warrant the extra cash. For under £400, do not be fooled by inferior manufacturers boasting seemingly superior specs. Samsung are the LCD industry leaders by a mile.
Best Kept Secrets: Best Of Lamb 1996-2004
Lamb - CD
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It is a great shame that there has only been one review of this ace collection.To me, where this duo succeed is where most critics find their downfall. The beats are sophisticated but frantic and the vocals are dark but lovely, evident in the first track 'Cotton Wool.' The style throughout is that of antithesis, and it works. Many tracks will be recognisable to any stranger to the group, most notably, the beautiful 'Gorecki' and 'Gabriel'No doubt this will be stamped by many as 'sophisto-lo-fi-dinner party music', however, there are also many upbeat and lovable jazzy tunes to enjoy, look out for track 3 'B Line.'Any fan of Massive Attack, Portishead, Zero 7 e.t.c will thoroughly enjoy this album. A steal at £4.99.